Review: Escapade by Dolce

Twenty-nine-year-old Lucas Thompson is at the top of the corporate ladder. But when his lifelong friend and ex-boyfriend invites him to his last-minute destination wedding in the Bahamas, Lucas realizes his corporate success can’t hide his private loneliness. Nor will he be able to escape seeing his family at the wedding—and having to explain, yet again, why he’s rich, handsome… and still single.

Fate and a taxi ride change everything when Lucas meets the charismatic and clever Jack McQueen, who just so happens to be a male escort. Jack’s presence on Lucas’s arm at the wedding keeps questions at bay, but their pretend relationship turns into something more after ten days of sun, sand, and sex. And before the trip is up, both men will discover that what started as a simple escapade in paradise might just lead to their very own happily ever after.

Love blooms in paradise.

This story has everything I love about rent-boy stories, and none of the added angst. This was such a light and fluffy book that I had the goofiest sweet grin on my face when reading it.

When Lucas is invited to his lifelong friend’s wedding, where he will be surrounded by a hoard of loving but meddling family… still single, he finds himself seeking some sort of an escape route. Jack (aka Teddy) feels an instant kinship to Lucas when they meet, and therefore finds himself accepting Lucas’ offer to be his pretend boyfriend for the 10 day wedding extravaganza.

I’m really going to struggle putting my thoughts on this book in articulate words. The way this was written was so detailed and subtle that one or two lines can’t convey the connection that was built between these two. It's through conversations that last pages, with Lucas and Teddy noticing small moments where their lives are starting to intertwine.

Jack laughed and perched on top of the kitchen island. He crossed his ankles, gently tapping his heels into the cabinet below.

Lucas glanced at the front door. Jack’s brown suede ankle boots rested beside his blue Adidas trainers.

“You’ll love them,”Jack insisted. “I’m sure of it.”

The flow of the writing is beautiful. We get so immersed in Lucas and Teddy's conversations as they get to know each other that I didn't notice the page count changing.

In most ‘pretend boyfriend’ books, the men are awkward around physical affection with each other and can barely be civil at times due to loads of sexual tension. Lucas and Teddy are actually like a real couple. There's no deceit between them, they confide in each other and offer support when it's needed. They also spend most of the book kissing, and each kiss is steamier than the last. Yes, there's sexual tension, but these men actually have control of their bodies and don't hide their attraction towards each other. Both are interested in forming a connection with each other before having sex.

Look I won’t lie, it takes ages for these guys to have sex. When they do, it's raw passion and sweaty sex, but I still felt like it was somewhat anticlimactic considering I had been waiting 75% of the book for them to get together.

Also at points I felt like the story dragged a bit, mostly around all the wedding activities Lucas and Teddy attend. It was still enjoyable, just 380 pages of sweet and fluffy romance building.

The humour was refreshingly funny and felt real. I could imagine actual people having these conversations. Thankfully there were no strange one liners awkwardly inserted to try make the book more enjoyable.

“You already gave me a very detailed blow-by-blow of your origin as Spider-Hustle.”
Jack snorted, “Captain Cock or Iron Arse,” and Lucas started to giggle with him.
“I quite like Captain Cock. Does your shield have a cock on it instead of a star?”
“It has cocks arranged in the shape of a star.”

I really enjoyed this, I felt content then entire time while reading it, and as long as you're prepared for 380 pages of fluffiness, I would highly recommend this book!

Check out on Dreamspinner Press or Goodreads!

Review: The Artifact of Foex by James L. Wolf

When Chet, a graduate student of archaeology, is invited to show a gorgeous woman named Journey around their summer dig site, he has no idea what he’s in for. For one thing Journey isn’t a woman: she’s Flame, one of the reviled, shape shifting, gender-fluctuating people of Uos. Then Journey uncovers a deadly secret in the dust. Chet must run to keep up with spies, murder, long-lost magic, and a romantic dream embodied by a 332 year old man who holds the key to absolute power on the world of Uos.

(Other, M/F, M/M - See publisher's website for content labels.)

This story was really fascinating. Set in an alternate world, with a complete history, cultural, and mythological background, this story starts at an Archeological dig site with unaffiliated student Chet meeting Journey. Journey is Flame, a race of people who can shapeshift gender, and cannot be touched by water, cleaning and healing themselves with fire.

Chet is human, inexperienced, and completely besotted with history. He lives and breathes it. He wants to become a Professor at a university, but doesn’t want to be affiliated to a God. I had difficulty with this part, but broken down, it means that Chet doesn’t want to claim a religious affiliation, which is apparently a big deal. Or something. It is explained in the beginning of the book, but it took me a bit longer to catch onto what it all meant. I’m dense like that.

Moving along. An artifact is discovered at the site, which holds a great deal of power, and it is up to Chet, Journey, Knife, another Flame, who is called in by Journey, and Fenimore, also found at the dig site, to guard it, all the while being hunted down across the country, by the owner of the dig site.

There are two key plot points to this story. The mystery behind the Artifact and Chet’s budding sexuality.

The mystery was good. It was a little complex and took a while to unravel in a way that connected everything. I liked that. It kept me guessing, but the breadcrumbs were there for me to pick up. It actually could have gone in a few directions, and I’m curious how many alternate endings the author has.

The sex was great. Chet was a virgin when the story began, and throughout the story he explores not only his sexuality with both men and women, but also some kink too. A lot of it was hot, even with the dubious consent. I enjoyed most of the scenarios Chet found himself in, sexually. I liked that it took him less time to accept himself and his desires as the story progresses. He embraced his bisexuality and enjoyed the pleasures he got from his experiences.

I enjoyed that this story was rich with cultural history. It was completely fleshed out world, full of different beings, completely different animal types, and a thorough mythology and history to go along with it. The author put a lot of work into ensuring the background was solid, and I appreciated that I had no questions about the world other than the ones I was made to question based on the journey Chet was on. The landscape was easy to imagine, and the political and cultural background of Flame was explained well.

It did start to feel a bit fetishized in some of the sex scenes, but it was about exploring, so I’ll give it a pass. It wasn’t completely over the top, and for the most part it was hot, so I ignored my irritation in some areas, because I mostly enjoyed the erotic content.

The storyline dragged a little bit for me in areas where there wasn’t a lot going on. Some of the story felt like a play by play, and I wanted to move on. It slowed the action-adventure part of the story down, and I could have done without those parts. For something different, and imaginative it was satisfying and thorough.

This is recommended for people who enjoy fantasy, paranormal, & alternate universe, with a complete cultural experience. Also lovers of bisexual erotica, and gender-fluctuating characters who can shapeshift into their preferred gender at will. This is not a love story, this an exploration of sexuality.

Warnings: dub-con, rape, mind-control, violence, and death.

Check out on Goodreads!

Review: Sunset Lake by John Inman, Narrated by Randal Schaffer

Reverend Brian Lucas has a secret his congregation in the Nine Mile Methodist Church knows nothing about, and he’d really like to keep it that way. But even his earth-shattering secret takes a backseat to what else is happening in his tiny hometown.

Murders usually do that.

Brian's “close friend,” Sam, is urging a resolution to their little problem, but Brian's brother, Boyd, the County Sheriff, is more caught up in chasing down a homicidal maniac who is slaughtering little old ladies.

When Brian's secret and Boyd's mystery run into each other head on, and Boyd's fifteen-year-old son, Jesse, gets involved, all hell breaks loose. Then a fourth death comes to terrify the town, and it is Brian who begins to see what is taking place in their little corner of the Corn Belt. But even for a Methodist minister, it will take more than prayer to set it right.

Listening Length: 11 hours and 51 minutes

Quietly horrifying.

I really can’t come up with a better way to describe John Inman’s Sunset Lake. The setting is a quiet small town full of quiet small town folks. Not much new happens and the biggest drama they have is the ongoing debate about, who makes the best peach cobbler for the church’s basket dinner. Reverend Brian is the epitome of a backwoods minister. He’s got an old soul full of kindness and empathy, but his age shows a little in his naiveté and his humor. He’s in his late twenties and I forgot how young he was now and again. The narrator’s voice on first listen sounded too old for Brian, but Brian’s personality had that timeless quality that seems to happen in small towns. To the old guard of the town, he’ll always be that kid who tore around with his best friend Sam, stuck in that limbo that happens between generations. So, the narration, that at first seemed a little too mature for Brian, ended up working for me really well. Shaffer’s voice has that perfect mix of humility and wisdom that fit the setting seamlessly.

Brian and Sam have a secret, they have been one another’s first and only loves since they were teenagers. And while they don’t really have a ton of page/chapter time together, this is a horror story after all, they have SUCH a connection. I could see it in every one of their interactions. I absolutely loved Brian and Sam together. Sam’s sweet and quiet patience with Brian was saint worthy. Imagine being a pastor in a small minded little town with a secret like that. Brian has an incredible amount of loyalty to his flock and Sam understood how hard it would be for Brian to leave and make a life elsewhere. He also knew that ultimatums would be unfair, so he waited. Reading the two of them together was beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.

Terror comes to town when one of their own is found horrifically murdered in, what should have been, a safe place, her own kitchen. Grace Nugget was not the first victim and the subsequent ones met their own ends just as violently. There didn’t seem to be a connection between the victims and from the scenes that were left behind it was obvious that the murderer was psychopathic. Reverend Brian gets involved by way of being the voice of calm assurance for the town of Nine Mile, but also because his brother Boyd is the town sheriff. Brian and Boyd could not have been more different and I liked listening to the dynamics of their relationship. While they were very different they were both good men through and through, with strong moral compasses and an innate sense of right and wrong. One’s compass is driven by God and the other by the law. I couldn’t help but thing about that a lot at the end of the story with decisions that were made and actions that were taken.

Boyd’s son Jesse is spending the summer outside of Nine Mile at Sunset Lake with his best friend Kyle, Brian, Sam and Mrs. Shanahan (Sam’s aunt). Brian’s been working on a summer camp for the kids of Nine Mile for a long time now and it’s finally time for the inaugural season. There’re a lot of last minute preparations going on and Boyd is pretty thankful that Jesse and Kyle are safe away from the town and the terror that rears its ugly head repeatedly. Mrs. Shanahan is a judgmental, opinionated, tough cookie and she and Brian have a real love/hate relationship. She ended up being one of my favorite characters with her tidbits of opinion and unwavering love for Sam. She’s the only person who knows their secret and her support was inspiring to hear.

I’ve talked a lot about the relationships and not much about murder.

That’s what was so incredibly great about Sunset Lake. It’s an overall quiet character study of small town life and what it’s like to live among those quirky characters while keeping a huge portion of yourself secret. I’d get lulled into the lives of these people and get caught up in the banter, the scandals and the history and then all of a sudden – WHAM, someone else has met their untimely death and it’s a slander to everything that Nine Mile is. If that seemingly random horror can happen in Nine Mile, then is anywhere safe? There are no real clues that Boyd can find and his frustration is mounting. There’s an air of paranoia over the town and suspicions are growing regarding just about everyone. None of them have a logical motive though and every conversation is a little questionable. The accusations are not overt, and that’s what makes them even more discomforting. It made even the lighthearted and loving moments moody and darker than they should have been. The pall that the author created and the narrator conveyed over the entire story were perfect.

The ending. The ending is fucked up. It’s fucked up and the absolute best for a true horror fan at the same time. I wanted to give John Inman and hug and then pull back and yell, “how could you?!?!?!?!” Even when I got to the point where I knew what was coming, I didn’t want to believe it could be. Some miracle is going to happen and it’s all going to be a mistake, it has to be.

It wasn’t.

I had questions. Not about the story, nothing was missing there, but I wanted to know what happened right before the ‘resolution’. Resolution is a patronizing word for the ending, but I don’t want to give ANYTHING away. Not knowing what happened is how it should be though, it’s what makes a horror story so delicious. So many things could have gone down, the ending would’ve been the same, but what happened right before? Is my imagination worse than what the author may have had in mind? If it were spelled out? I highly doubt it, but like I said, the mystery makes it better. I want to bribe the author with ridiculous amounts of caffeine, sugar and alcohol and pick his brain about that moment until he’s had enough of my nonsense and flees. This is the moment where I couldn’t help but cogitate about where Boyd, the man of the law and Brian, the man of God, were coming from and how they reconciled the result with their beliefs.

It’s a lot to resolve and one of the many reasons this story will stick with me. So many wonderful and awful things happened in Sunset Lake and I’ll not forget them anytime soon. The characters are with me to stay. I was really happy with the ending for Brian and Sam, but like everything else in Nine Mile, they will be forever changed by Brian’s knowledge of that night. He’s traded one secret for another but at least he’ll have a chance at forever happiness with Sam. I highly recommend the book and the audio version complemented the characters and the story. It’s not an easy read/listen, but it’s worth every heartbreaking moment.

For more info on Sunset Lake head over to Dreamspinner Press and Goodreads.

**a copy of this audiobook was provided by Dreamspinner Press for an honest review**

Review: A Time to Rise by Tal Bauer

History says the Knights Templar were destroyed in 1307.
History is wrong.

Vampires haunt the sewers beneath Rome, revenants desecrate graveyards, ghouls devour helpless passersby, and incubi stalk dark alleys and seedy nightclubs in Italy’s capital. Deep in the Vatican, a brotherhood exists, sworn protectors of the earth, and they stand firm against monsters from the dark depths. Operating in secret and silence, they protect our world from the sinister, the etheric, and from the evils that exist beyond the Veil.

But it’s a lonely life, and Alain Autenberg knows that more than most. His lover was ripped from him years ago and he vowed never to get close to another soul again. Even when the loneliness presses down on him, and his empty heart cries out for something more.

Something more comes in Cristoph Hasse, a new soldier arriving in Rome to serve in the Pontifical Swiss Guard. Young, brash, and fitting in at right angles everywhere he goes, Cris struggles in the murky, deceptive labyrinth of the Vatican. Propelled forward by a past he can’t understand, Cris collides with Alain, and both men crash headfirst into the darkest secret of the Vatican… and of the world.

"Antiquity drowned the air, heavy with every inhale."
A Time to Rise is my first Tal Bauer book, and I devoured it. Although it is set in the modern day, it has that hint, that echo, of the past. I enjoy books set in centuries gone, especially stories about the religious and civil clashes. Kate Mosse's Labyrinth series and Ken Follet's Pillars of the Earth are both firm favourites. I also find the Knights Templar pretty fascinating, especially how they lend themselves to fictional stories set in the present day. This book was just like that; a story set in modern Rome mixing reality, fiction and supernatural together.

The first thing that drew me into this story when I started reading was the writing. It may seem a pretty stupid thing to say but I was very attracted to Tal Bauer's style. It was descriptive and written so I felt as though I was there. The streets of this ancient city came alive for me, though it's a place I've never been.
"Instead, he'd sent Cris away, twice. Lied to him. Said terrible things to him. And shown him a hint of the dark and terror-filled truth of his own life."
More than just the descriptions of the place though, I felt the characters. Alain, especially, I found so easy to understand. I felt for him; tired and needing and brave and honorable and putting everything else first. He was grumpy towards Cris, but it didn';t anger me I understood why he was the way he was. I enjoyed watching his relationship with Cris develop, and also his friendship with Father Nicosia (who I loved!!)

I think the only thing I would have liked more of from this book, is for it to be slightly longer and more complex. That's not to say it isn't a full length novel, it is and it's complete but I am quite a fan of epic novels that I can really get my teeth into and I think this story had all the aspects to make this happen. This really is only a greedy-reader-me thing though and in no way detracts or impacts the story given. I cannot wait for more from this author.

One last thing, I really like the cover of this book. After a spate of really fugly front covers in the genre, I'm glad publishers are seeing the importance of a decent front cover these days. How about you? Is a cover important to you?

A copy of this book was given ion exchange for an honest review.
For more information see Goodreads.

Purchase Links:
NineStar Press:

Interested in learning more about the author and "A Time to Rise"? See below!

Author Bio

Tal Bauer writes LGBT fiction and romance, bringing together a career in law enforcement, trauma medicine, and international humanitarian and disaster relief work to create dynamic, strong characters, intriguing plots, and unique, exotic locations. Tal's stories weave together pulse-pounding adventure, cunning intrigue, and sweeping romance. Tal is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Mystery Writers of America.



Tal Bauer © 2016
All Rights Reserved

Pressing back against the ancient stone-church walls, Alain palmed his pistol, his fingers curling around the heavy grip as he adjusted his hold. Cold ivy, wet with dew, flicked over the back of his neck, and midnight fog clung to his skin, the roughhewn stones, and the dreary courtyard. Across the cobblestone drive in front of the church, pebbles skittered wildly, an ill wind blowing through.

A streetlamp hummed down the road, but it was lost in the haze, and the entire night could have been a transplanted moment from so long ago. Antiquity drowned the air, heavy with every inhale. A fountain burbled, water falling from the mouths of fat marble cherubs beneath the light of a sickle moon.

Next to Alain, pressed against the rotten and crumbling walls of the Basilica di Sant’Aurea, Father Lotario Nicosia slipped his pistol under his suit jacket and into his shoulder holster. He was dressed in his usual Catholic priest’s attire—black suit and a Roman collar—but he packed heavier firepower than just a crucifix. Double shoulder holsters with modified twin 9mm pistols. Still, Father Lotario tucked the pistols away.

What they were hunting tonight wouldn’t fall to bullets. Not even silver or iron bullets.

Father Lotario coughed, breathing hard through the wet chill choking the nighttime air.

“You need to quit smoking,” Alain grunted.

“It’s not going to be the smokes that kill me.” Lotario drew his sickled blade—black handled with, as instructed by the Keys of Solomon, the seven names of God carved into the metal—in one hand and pulled two flasks from his suit jacket pocket with the other. Slim and silver, there were no markings to tell what each flask contained.

Alain rolled his eyes, watching as Lotario unscrewed the first flask and downed a swallow. Lotario hissed, squeezing his eyes closed, and nodded. “Yep. That’s the vodka.”

“One day, the Holy Water will burn up your insides just the same.” Alain jerked his head toward the church rectory. “Let’s go. There’s a priest pissing himself inside.”

Lotario spat and nodded. Across the street, the swirl of red and blue police lights made slow circles in the gloomy haze, disjointed halos of smeared light at the entrance to the cemetery at Ostia Antica in the southern suburbs of Rome. Senior Officer Angelo Conti would have his men spread out by now, circling the block with a tight perimeter, keeping their prey locked in. To anyone else, it would look like any other Italian Polizia di Statio operation. Maybe searching for a drug runner or an escaped drunk.

No one would ever suspect a revenant was on the loose.

The world was woefully—blessedly—ignorant of the dark creatures and evil spirits who had managed to cross through the Veil to make their home in the human world. What would people do, Alain sometimes wondered, if only they knew?

His job, of course, was to ensure they never knew. That no one would ever know about the darkness, the etheric, and the demonic forces preying upon the world.

He and Father Lotario, that is.

That evening, they’d received a call from their contact and counterpart Angelo, an officer in the Italian polizia’s Central Operational Core of Security, Special Projects branch. The Central Operational Core managed the Italian state’s counterterrorism and national security operations. The Special Projects branch, which technically didn’t exist, was on permanent cooperative status with the Vatican and assigned to paranormal security. Angelo was a gruff, no-nonsense veteran of the carabinieri and had only grudgingly accepted the transfer to the Special Projects branch when a gunfight at a Mafia sting in Sicily went south, and he ended up with six bullets in his body. He was normally the one to request them—seemingly always after dark—when a call about suspicious activity from a Roman citizen was quietly routed to the Special Projects desk.

Tonight, a revenant was tearing through the Ostia Antica Cemetery, screaming wildly out of the grave from which it rose and cracking marble tombs with its roars of rage. The shrieks, like dead branches scratching over glass, had chilled Alain’s blood when he and Lotario arrived. The cold followed, an unnatural chill that swam through the Roman fog and seeped into his bones.

They had arrived just in time to see the revenant shriek its way out of the cemetery and cross the street, a swirl of shadow and bloodred rage. Curls of terror and fury crashed through the drivers along the road. Cars spun out, tires squealing, horns honking, and people suddenly cursed at each other as they rocked with the sensations of an evil spirit they couldn’t see.

Across the street from the cemetery, Basilica di Sant’Aurea’s church, a bedraggled medieval building of crumbling, rotten stone and ivy-covered castle walls, sat in the middle of a cracked cobblestone courtyard. Candles inside the church twinkled, lit with prayers and whispers from the congregation, but it was the lights in the rectory that drew the revenant. Inside it went, and the elderly priest barricaded himself inside his closet.

Angelo was talking to the priest over the phone, trying to calm the old man down from his hyperventilating hysterics. A man of the cloth the priest may be, but preaching in a pulpit and saying grace didn’t prepare a man to come face-to-face with a resurrected corpse-spirit full of rage and bitter malice on a Tuesday night.

“The stairs around the back go up to the rectory,” Lotario said, motioning with his head. “I’ll slip up the back. You come in from the front and cover me. Distract it. I’ll hit it with the flask while it’s occupied with you.”

Alain stared, not blinking. “This plan sounds dubious at best.”

Lotario shrugged, and a devil-may-care smirk curled up the edges of his lips. “If you would carry more than just your pistol—”

“No.” Alain sighed. “How many times—”

“Yeah, yeah.” Lotario took another pull from the flask of vodka. “One day, Alain.”

“On three?” Alain ignored him and glanced around the church wall, looking at the front entrance to the rectory. “I can get inside in six seconds.”

“Well, then wait here for a bit before you go. You know I smoke.” Lotario pushed off the wall and ducked around the side of the church, heading for the rear stairwell. His long legs pumped behind him, his suit jacket flapping in the night.

Alain watched and waited, his lips pressed tight, holding in his curse, until Lotario reached the base of the stairs.

Then, he took off, racing around the other side of the church wall and tearing for the rectory’s entrance.

Alain burst inside, crashing through the doors with his shoulder and splintering the ancient wood from its hinges. He stumbled but heard the upstairs balcony door crash and then a roar from the revenant. Leaping, Alain dashed up the wooden stairs of the church rectory, taking them three at a time, and then kicked down the priest’s bedroom door.

The revenant, a swirl of ruby mist coalescing into a vaguely human shape, though elongated and stretched out of proportion, spun, the mist shrieking into Alain’s face. He raised his pistol and fired once, trying to squint through the haze.

Lotario knew better than to be in the path of his bullets.

Then again, he really could never be too sure with Lotario, but Alain caught the sound of a flask’s cap hitting the wooden floorboards.

From behind a thick wooden door, he heard sobbing, pleading, and frantic prayers to God.

The priest.

He rolled to his side, edging along the wall as Lotario doused the revenant mist with the flask of vodka. Lotario brandished his blade in front of him, swished wildly through the air, holding the revenant back, and sprayed the demon’s incorporeal form.

Alain reached the closet doors right as he heard Lotario flick his lighter. “Jesus Christ,” Alain breathed, rolling his eyes.

He ripped open the doors in one quick jerk, sweeping with his pistol. Inside, the old priest was curled into a ball, a stain on his bathrobe showing where he’d pissed himself. Red-rimmed eyes and a tear-stained face turned toward Alain. He was gasping, reciting the Lord’s Prayer and Hail Marys by rote.

Behind Alain, Lotario’s lighter landed in the dripping pile of vodka tossed through the revenant’s mist. Flames bloomed, erupting in a fireball through the priest’s bedroom, engulfing the revenant and searing through its ethereal form. Another shriek, this one worse than all the others combined, tore from the revenant’s burning shadow, a formless, screeching cry of fury and agony. The flames followed the mist as it tried to flee, tried to scatter, the fire burning away the revenant like a vapor, flaring out in a single moment.

Burn marks smoked up from the priest’s bedroom floor. Lotario stepped forward and poured the second flask—Holy Water, this time—onto the black scorch seared into the wood. He ground his heel against the drops when they sizzled and popped.

Alain held out his hand for the priest, but the old man fainted, a breathless gasp wheezing past his lips.

Review: Between Love and Obsession by Cassidy Ryan

When love crosses the line into darkness…

Ben can’t walk away from Aiden, even though Aiden seems to have no problem walking away from him, time and time again. In spite of his friend’s warnings, Ben refuses to believe that Aiden is just using him, until a devastating secret is revealed. However, Aiden isn’t the only one with something to hide.

Someone else is keeping a secret that threatens not only Ben and Aiden’s relationship, but Ben’s very life. Will they be able to keep Ben alive?

Publisher's Note: This book has previously been released elsewhere. It has been revised and re-edited for re-release with Pride Publishing.

This story had a lot going for it. Ben will not walk away from Aiden because he accepts him and his wandering ways, and even though he wants more, he will take what he is given. Until he finds out Aiden’s secret, and then things take a really bizarre turn.

The story starts on a high note…. And by high, I been sexy, and by note, I mean orgasms. The erotica in this story was yummy. Dirty talk is hot. Aiden is good at it. Their relationship seems to have evolved into something sweet and comfortable. The brief backstory is enough to give a realistic impression of the dynamics.

I was invested enough in this couple to want them to be together. The author did a great job of giving me these characters and making me like them.

The writing was good. The plot easy to follow. Until the secret. And then all bets were off. It twisted into something completely different and I felt that the author needed to write more on this for it to truly give the story justice. The plot holes were…. Significant. It really needed the fillers to make it work. The idea is great. I wanted to explore it more. I would encourage Cassidy Ryan to take this snippet and expand it into something longer with more invested in the twisty parts. I can see it turning out really well.

But for this short story, I’d say, it needs work. And by work I mean more story. Take this little piece and write a full length novel.

For those who enjoy short stories under 100 pages, with some sex, and some plot, this is a good one. For those who need more…. I can’t really recommend this because it will leave you feeling bereft.

Even though I’m disappointed in the way this unfolded, I will definitely read this author again, because like I said, the writing is good, and the idea is great. Keep going, and give us the rest of this story. I don’t mind being teased, as long as there is follow through. I hope there is follow through for this one.

Check out on Goodreads!

Review: Tales of Amaranth: The Boxed Set by Thom Lane

In Amaranth, there are two kinds of men: slaves and the men who own them. It's a dark world, full of sex and magic, where privilege rules everything but the human heart.

Note: All of the books in this set have been previously released as individual titles

(averaged over all six books)
"I almost forgot to be scared. Not quite, because slaves never do quite forget, and if we did the collar’s weight around our necks would remind us. By the time he turned to face me, though, it was his hands and strength and temper I was scared of, not his powers: the master, not the mage. As it should be."
If like me, your tastes run towards some well written master/slave fantasy then I believe you will be in for a treat with this gem of a collection. Admittedly this is probably a niche market, but for those who like gritty fantasy, this is erotica with bite.

I was captured by the artistry of the stories depicting a harsh a world where neither slavery nor magic is uncommon. The world building is immersive and depicts cruel pragmatism, without being overblown or angsty. I think these tales are clever in their weft of texture and nuance drawing the experiences of flawed characters living in a disturbing world.

Each of the six tales (of various lengths and perspectives combine to create a satisfying and thought provoking read). Indeed it feels strange to be back in the real world now that my visit to Amaranth is complete...

Whether you are a returning visitor to Amaranth or a completely new traveller to this world as I was, I highly recommend the journey. The narrators make good travel guides to a world and culture different from our own.

Let me give fair warning that in Amaranth the approach to slavery is unyielding, and that these tales do not fall close to the tropes in which slavery is consensual or where a 'reasonable' Master and his slave strive for equality at least in private. If a non consensual lifestyle creates a moral stumbling block for your reading preferences, my advice is do not enter these pages.

The Tales of Amaranth is distinctly unusual, the genre of slave fiction often depicts an emotional journey between Master and slave towards some fundamental recognition of equality even a subtle shift. The beauty of Amaranth is the starkness of the Master/slave dynamic.

The static nature of the Master/slave dynamic is disconcerting to accept, slavery is not varnished or easily dismissed. It brings a piquancy to the books around the fragility and uncertainty of autonomy. Once a slave in Amaranth there is no option but to accept the situation. Some slaves are born into the life, others become slaves when found guilty of a crime and some find their freedom lost via nefarious means.

In each of the tales, slaves resolve to make the best of bad situations and find joy in the littlest of things, a smile, a stroke of the hair, enjoying a morsel of food slipped to them by their master (slaves here often eat only one meal of gruel per day). You might expect these tales to be grim reading instead the writing is crafted beautifully and glisters with insight. Amaranth is magnificent in its starkness. In this world, slaves are insignificant and of shockingly little value, less most probably than a stick of furniture. The callousness is incredibly well depicted and yet these stories are not dark, they sparkle with ingenuity and close observation of human interaction.

Most definitely not romance; but certainly erotic. The moments of tenderness are remarkably hot with elements of BDSM (though by default none of it safe, sane or consensual).

Some slave fiction has me curling my lip and walking away, not so with Tales of Amaranth, I found each of these stories intriguing I was greedy for more. As for the cover art it deserves a mention all on its own, as beautifully emotive as the stories themselves.

The Tales are told from differing perspectives, sometimes from the slave's perspective alone, sometimes only the master's point of view is given and in one story the tale has a dual perspective. All of the telling shares integrity, it may be skewed and a million miles away from what is acceptable in a non fantasy world but I found the characters believable, the plotting intense and the world of Amaranth immersive.

Let me give you just a flavour of what to expect, each of the books could be read a standalone pieces:

Dark Heart (Tales of Amaranth #1) - Five Hearts
'I waited. So did he. I thought time itself had paused, all the world hung still on the poise of that moment, elegant and cruel...'
Told from the perspective of Tam a slave owned by the Wayfarers’ Guild. He describes himself as 'broken to the collar', meaning he has come to accept life as slave. Having spent his young life on the streets, Tam was caught and collared for thieving, 'All inside an hour, my life taken from me and my freedom too...'

Tam now behaves with almost blind obedience, but glimpses of his irrepressible personality shine through bringing optimism and vibrancy. He plays down his intelligence and independence to avoid punishment, but is easily adaptable when circumstances arise.

Assigned to serve Master Mage Lucan who is staying temporarily at the Guild, an attraction builds between them. Lucan is hired by the Guildmistress to solve the mystery of who is maliciously targeting guild houses. Lucan uses Tam as a resource in this task.

Most people fear Lucan, but Tam sees much to be admired in his stern new master. The writing is subtle and seamlessly weaves complex ideas about conformity, expectations and social structure.
Some readers believe Tam to be dumb and compliant, I do not agree; I think he is realistic and resourceful and it is his strength of character that eventually draws the notice of the darkly mysterious and formidable Lucan to Tam.

The competent writing brews complex flawed characters and the use of magical elements exquisitely captures the dangers and nuances of an unpredictable world.

Tam craves the domination of a single Master, but Lucan may not be anything close to what he imagined.

Healing Heart (Tales of Amaranth #2) - Four Hearts

This brings a whole different vibe from 'Dark Heart'
'No slave escapes the whip, but sometimes the hand that holds it can prove not only strict but tender too. Maybe no slave escapes dreaming, either. I wasn't fool enough to dream of freedom, but perhaps I'd dared to dream of love...

Told from the mixed point of views of Master and slave this explores the life and relationship between two young men who have their lives just starting out.

Coryn is finding his place as a Master Mage, having only graduated. People may not yet fear him as much as they might although his powers are formidable.

He literally bumps into Raff a fleeing slave running for his life, a victim of plague and hunted by some thugs who want to kill him to ensure the plague does not spread. Coryn heals the slave and decides to claim ownership, he names his new slave Raff.

Raff's previous Master and Mistress are dead from the plague, he and Coryn are contemporaries, both in their early twenties. Coryn has never owned a slave before so there is a fraction of leeway in their roles especially as Coryn becomes preoccupied with curing the town's citizens from plague. Not wishing to be as brutal as his father, Coryn sends some mixed messages to his slave whose unfortunate route to slavery is highly questionable. Coryn's naivety and lack of experience unwittingly places Raff in real danger when times become desperate, creating a matter of life and death for both master and slave.

The complexities and intricate relationship between master and slave is explored via various characters and pairings within the book. This begins to examine in some more detail the dynamic, rivalries and sometime camaraderie between slaves. The exploration adds to the overall depth of world building.

There are moments of raw sensuality and shocking brutality too that mixes magic and morality with aplomb.

Old friends from Dark Heart appear and assist in saving the day, and lend a hand in solving the mystery at the source of the plague.

I found this to be a really intriguing read with more elements of mystery than the previous book.

Hidden Heart (Tales of Amaranth #3) - Four Hearts
'...Head up, eyes down: it’s a trick you have to learn, not to slouch and not to stare around you, not to catch anyone’s eye. If you’re born slave, you learn it by instinct, growing up; if not, your first owner will usually beat it into you. Me—well. Who knew? I had the art of it now; that was what mattered...'
A much briefer story told from the perspective of Tiffin who finds himself learning life as a slave in a military fortress.

Tiffin has no memory of his former life or what brought him to this place. The fortress guards a great source of magic, and Tiffin may be the unwitting pawn in an attempt to seize power.

What is exceptionally unsettling is that the concept of slavery allows an individual no autonomy over their body, but this goes one stage further.

Tiffin does his best to be a good and obedient slave and yet even this intention is removed from his control when he loses track of time and location.

Meanwhile Tiffin falls under the sometime protection of Zander one of the soldiers at the base, but their relationship is in jeopardy if Tiffin cannot give his complete devotion.

A short story with a great deal of complexity hidden in some really artful writing and of course elements of kink just waiting in the wings to lighten the load...

This is interesting plot full of twists, my only complaint is that it is very short and I would have liked more.

There is a welcome glimpse of characters from the first book Dark Heart.

Runaway Heart (Tales of Amaranth #4) - Three Hearts

'...all the resistance left him in a rush and he stood as still as any slave, mute and surrendered, starkly terrified...'
Yet another aspect of the Master/slave dynamic is explored this time told from the perspective of a free person Marc he recounts how Finn came into his possession. I liked this tale least of all of the Amaranth stories most probably because Marc shows very few redeeming qualities.

Having agreed to a prank to steal something of value from the baron, Marc must make his escape or face capture (and if caught endure a life of likely slavery). He is rescued by a runaway who knows how to evade the chasing hounds.

Whilst owing his freedom to his rescuer, Marc concocts a daring plan to get them both off the baron's land. Regrettably he has no compunction in claiming the slave and naming him Finn.

Clearly Finn does not wish for the life of slavery he was born to, however a lifetime of servitude makes it impossible for him to resist Marc. Slavery has an element of safety where the boundaries are very clear compared to the vagaries and uncertainties of freedom.

Finn readjusts almost immediately to life once more as a slave. "...You’re way too lovely to be free.”

I found this story particularly unsettling and yet it is full of rescue, betrayal and adventure. Definitely an interesting exploration of entitlement; and there remains a ray of hope that having taken responsibility for Finn, Marc may properly re-evaluate his priorities and eventually be a worthy Master of his slave.

Gambling Heart (Tales of Amaranth #5) - Five Hearts

'... In that moment, I think I loved him: for his courage, of course, and for the sheer casual grace in him. He must have known just how deadly this trouble was, the mage was a guarantee of that; he must have been afraid, deep down; his face showed nothing but a savage contempt...'

This is one of my favourite tales of the series with the added delight of catching up again with characters from Dark Heart. Jensen is a rather charming wastrel and gambler who awakens to discover his luck has changed for the better and he has won both some money and a handsome body slave in a drunken game.

Jensen names his new slave Jay, but fears he will not be able to afford to keep him. Jay has other ideas.

Told entirely from Jay's perspective this tale provides more insights into the life and expectations of a slave. Jay believes that if he can make himself indispensable to his laid back new master, he can help secure a brighter future for them both.

Jay has always been a slave, but he senses in Jensen a kindness and (he believes that although his new master has a penchant for risk, gambling and drink) that they could build a good life together if Jensen agrees to keep him and if they can escape the clutches of Jay's former master who wants him back.

There is a mystery to solve full of dark magic that endangers not just them, but the world they live in. It will take the skills of both men as they come to rely on each other. Tam and Lucan are also make a welcome appearance to lend a hand and to thwart an evil plan of sorcery and magic.

Heart's Hunt (Tales of Amaranth #6) - Three Hearts

'The right slave could be a lifetime’s commitment, the way I saw it: like a good dog, or a good horse. You’d never choose to sell them.'
Possibly the briefest of The Tales of Amaranth series, this is told from Martel's perspective. He has plans afoot and his quarry is in sight.

Martel has been displaced due to civil war and intends to move to neighbouring Amaranth and begin a new life there.

This tale explores an interesting concept of whether someone might actually choose slavery over death. It also begins to explore the contrast between consensual and non-consensual slavery.

Once more brevity of words do not prevent an insightful exploration of the skewed morality of slavery in the Amaranth universe, where there is a stern and brutal logic to slavery. The consistent implementation of rules and expected behaviour leaves little room for misunderstanding.

Martel believes the young slave he finds in the woods is likely to be Prince Jocelyn who has a price on his head. He eventually confides his analysis of the situation to the slave allowing him to make one final decision.

Add to your shelf on Goodreads!

Review: Shirt by Amy Lane

2nd Edition

After a meet-cute in a bathroom and a whirlwind courtship, Ryan is ready to introduce Scotty to his parents. But a misunderstanding and some stubborn cuff buttons tangle Ryan up in an oxford shirt at a really inopportune time. Can Scotty take this opportunity to teach Ryan one or two more lessons about falling in love?

Previously published in the Curious: A Woman's Introduction to Gay Romance anthology by Dreamspinner Press, 2010.

I’m doing things a bit backwards here. I’ve already read the next two books in the Ryan and Scott series, so I’m backtracking now that the first book has been re-released.

‘Shirt’ takes readers to the early days in Ryan and Scotty’s relationship. After falling love and quickly moving in together, Ryan is about to introduce Scotty to his parents. Between worrying about what his parents will think of Scotty and Scotty’s ill-timed decision to seduce Ryan, Ryan reminisces about how he and Scotty first met.

If there’s a single gif that can explain this book, I’d say it’s this one:

‘Shirt’ really is a fluffy pink unicorn dancing on a rainbow. There’s no angst or drama, just two men basking in the honeymoon phase of their new-found love. It’s definitely insta-love, which often annoys me, but works fine in such a short and sweet read.

I enjoyed getting to see how the relationship began, especially the bathroom incident. The sequels allude to the scene in the bathroom, but don’t give any details. I thought it was a very funny meet-cute, and so indicative of Scotty’s personality.

Who, other than Scotty, would meet the love of his life in a bathroom while hiding from a horny secretary, and then proceed to compliment the size of his new-found love’s penis?

Plus, we’ve got Ryan’s introduction into the world of gay sex. Fans of butt-sex virgins will be happy.

Having already read both Phonebook and Puppy, Car, and Snow, I felt like I had a better understanding of Ryan and Scotty. But I don’t think that’s necessary to enjoy this short story. I would highly recommend continuing with the rest of the series though, because it’s some great fluff.

If you’re looking for a short, sweet, and sexy read, ‘Shirt’ will fit the bill. It’s free too!

Find out more on Dreamspinner Press or Goodreads.

Review: Fire Up My Heart by Asta Idonea

London bartender Fane thinks he’s hit the jackpot when he finds a rare and expensive service Bot discarded in a dumpster, and he takes it home to get it working again. The Jo-E brings some much-needed companionship to Fane’s lonely life, but there’s something different about this Bot, as indicated by its odd behavior. Fane’s developing feelings toward Jo-E trouble him, and things go from bad to worse when a robotics engineer arrives on Fane’s doorstep, demanding the return of his property. Fane is forced to choose between a hefty reward and following his heart. Giving in to his forbidden desires might get him killed—or change his life forever.

Well this was a fun little ride...

New to me author Asta Idonea delivered a cool little tale about a lonely bartender and a service Bot, named Jo-E in the not too distant future in a little town you might've heard of called London.

"You make me feel so many things, Fane. When I think of you, my cogs clench and my gears grind. Electricity sparks inside of me, and power pools in my chest and groin, pulsing there, desperate for release. Do you not experience the same?"

Fane, a bartender at a seedy gay bar named Spunk. An orphan just barely scraping by sees what he thinks is a body in a dumpster and ends up winning a jackpot in the bot lottery. An expensive prototype called Joe-E that was damaged by able to be fixed by Fane. Fane fixes the Bot but something is different. Bots are made to serve humans, not in the sexy way because it's illegal. But he can't help his attraction no matter how hard he fights it. And what's more curiouser is Jo-E reacts and feels like a human. The lines are beginning to blur.

Now, I'll admit. I read the blurb and I jumped to read this because robot sex.

Don't judge.

You know you were thinking it too.
Well maybe not this image exactly...

"Uh, Jo-E, probably best not to tell the guy you were making love to that you were thinking of other things while he was jerking you off."
"I do not understand, Fane. Only 15 percent of my capacity was assigned to the problem. The remaining 85 percent was focused on you."

This story does deliver one erotic scene but what's more important is the sexual tension and budding desire between Bot and human. The author thankfully wrote alternating POV. Fane is a good guy who just didn't win the life lottery. The struggle is totally real in his case. But Jo-E was the one who clinched it for me. Reading Jo-E's thoughts and processes were a delight.

Like this:
"Hours passed as Jo-E pondered. Outside, the sky turned from #58D3F7 to #F5BCA9 to #0B0B3B."  

I actually looked it up on the Color Hexa (color encyclopedia) and it was accurate! How cool was it to describe time changes in code. (BTW, #F5BCA9 is a fave color of mine) Reading him become human like (well as close as the AI could do), reacting to Fane and being the pursuer in their relationship was pretty damn cool.

Sadly, the story wasn't just about man and Bot falling in love. There was a little suspense too. Jo-E's original owner wanted him back and did a few shady things to get Jo-E back in his greedy clutches. Eh...the villain and that plot point, the main idea of it was needed but it could have been a little sharper for me in some aspects.

The villain, an evil, overweight professor who doesn't like to get his hands dirty but loves the food. *sigh* The fat jeering: eats so much cake, looks like a "doughnut", got old pretty quick. Thankfully, it wasn't a major part of the story, but it stuck out for me. I think the villain could've been a little more detailed. He's a genius, right? He's worried more about eating and ordering others around instead of handling the retrieval himself. Or at least in charge more instead of being so lazy.

Even with the lamer villain, the story and the romance was a nice one. I really enjoyed the concept and the main theme. The HEA was tied up in a neat bow. I'd definitely read more from this author.

Recommended for readers who like light, no angst Bot/human romance that doesn't have a squicky feel to it.

Unicorn meets robots.

Check out on:

Dreamspinner Press



Review: Strip Search (Sin City Uniforms #7) by Morticia Knight

A sexy stripper attempts to escape his dangerously obsessed boss while searching for his missing younger brother.

Stripping used to be fun, lucrative and a place for Dakota to practice for his professional dancing career. But the owner of Glitter Boys wants Dakota for himself and will stop at nothing to possess him. When his thirteen-year-old brother runs away from home to escape their abusive father, Dakota is determined to find him before something awful happens to him on the streets.

Patrol officer Reed hasn’t been attracted to a man in a very long time, but when he’s called to an assault in progress at the LGBTQ teen shelter, a young man approaches him, begging for help in finding his missing brother. An instant spark occurs, but he pushes it away. When the same man is attacked outside a strip club later that night, he discovers the desire is mutual.

As the two men learn more about each other and become closer, the specter of his obsessed ex-boss remains. In addition to that, Dakota has to fight the system to gain guardianship of his brother and keep him out of foster care. Dakota doesn’t know if the hunky cop he’s fallen so hard for can handle a relationship with an ex-stripper struggling to raise a teenager. But, will Reed be able to give up dating women for good and dedicate himself to their new family?

Reader Advisory: This book contains scenes of sexual intimidation, scenes of mild physical assault and threats of sexual violence.

Publisher's Note: This book can be read as part of a series or as a standalone novel.

I love strippers. Any kind really. But especially strippers who wear these

...and dance on these


So Dakota starts out in a strip club. He’s trying to save for dance classes because he wants to join a dance show in Vegas, more like this…

Instead of this….

Can’t you do both though?! For me?

While he’s trying to work through trouble with his crazy stalker boss, his mother tells him that his brother is missing. So he attempts to enlist the help of Reed, a patrol officer who responds to a call at a local LGBT youth centre where Dakota is searching for his brother.

Dakota and Reed have chemistry. Lots of lovely chemistry. Except while Reed has always known he was bisexual, he has actually never been with another man that way

Butt virgin?!!

I really enjoyed the heat between these two. The sex was aggressive and awesome. Dakota might be only twenty-three and wears tiny shorts to work, but he is definitely a dominant personality and goes for what he wants.

As far as the plot goes. Meh, it was all right. It centred mostly around Reed and Dakota getting to know each other, as well as Dakota working out how to get custody of his younger brother. The rest of the drama going on around them was easy enough to swallow. Being the seventh book in the series, I don’t know if prior books tie in, or if they’re all standalone stories that are set in the same world. I didn’t feel lost at all, and there was only a hint of some people Reed knew that may have been introduced in prior books or that had background information that may have been interesting.

Overall, I enjoyed this story. It didn’t blow my mind, but it was a solid read that gave me enough of the things I love to get absorbed in it.

Recommended for those who enjoy a solid contemporary romance, with a small amount of action, characters with an age gap of ten years or more, and some hot dirty talk.

There is some violence in this, some suggestion of domestic abuse, and stalking, but it is a very small portion of the story.

Check out on Goodreads!

Tag-Team Review: Five Times My Best Friend Kissed Me by Anna Martin

and One Time I Kissed Him First

When you realize you want to marry your best friend at age six, life should follow a pretty predictable path, right? Maybe not.

As a kid, Evan King thought Scott Sparrow was the most amazing person he’d ever met. At seventeen, his crush runs a little deeper, and nothing seems simple anymore. Scott is more interested in football and girls than playing superheroes, and Evan’s attention is focused on getting into art school. A late-night drunken kiss is something to be forgotten, not obsessed over for the next ten years.

When life suddenly brings them back together, it doesn’t take much for the flame Evan carried for Scott nearly all his life to come roaring back, and Evan discovers that life sometimes has a strange way of coming full circle.

Averaged reviews.

Lorix - 4.5 Hearts

Ahhhh...le sigh! This book could have been written for me. My absolute favourite storyline of all time is friends to lovers, especially if it's a best friends for their entire life kind of a deal.
"It wouldn't take long for the gym to smell like sweat and the cafeteria to smell like grease and the art rooms to feel like home."
Evan loves art and he loves his best friend Scott. This story flips back and forth through the years showing us key points of the friendship between Scott and Evan, from when they first met as children to the current day - or actually in the future as the epilogue is set in 2020.

Generally, I really like time jumps in novels (I know a lot of people don't, but it is a format that usually works well for me, I like the slow reveal of information in bits and pieces) yet in this novel I felt as though it would have worked just as well linearly; I didn't feel we gained anything from it being written in this way. That said though, it also didn't bother me too much, it just felt a tad unnecessary to me.

I liked how we learnt about Evan's relationship with, not just Scott, but Scott's family. That warmth and belonging that he'd had since childhood. I also liked how Evan's mom was portrayed and how the families fitted together.

The five times/one time format is a fan fiction trope that I really enjoy, and I loved seeing it in a novel. It fitted this story really well. It felt right. The whole story was like a big hug really, exactly as I hoped it would be when I started reading it.

One niggle - and I may be way off base here - but it felt like the author wasn't American but a Brit. Some things just made me pause; Durex as the condom brand for example (most US novels use Trojan) I could be completely and utterly wrong, and it wasn't a huge dealio, just at times I paused because a phrase felt particularly English to me.

Despite this and the time jumps I still class this as a four and a half heart read, because it was just a warm, happy story - and best friends snogging is always a win in my book!

Kristan - 4 Hearts

Five times Scott kissed Evan + the time Evan kissed Scott first.

It's completely adorable, and sweet and there's no two ways about it, I loved these two men. It had everything I wanted from a best friends to lovers/ reunited/ worked hard for their HEA, story.

But what will hold this story back for many readers, is the non linear telling of it. There's no real reason for it to jump through time the way it did, and it took some of the shine off an otherwise perfect story. The issue with reading a story that's not in chronological order, is that the reader has to wait forever to find out why a character feels or reacts a certain way. Here, it feels like we have to wait forever to find out why these two men were dancing around each other. There's also something that happens between them in college that leads to a falling out, that never really gets addressed. Maybe having Scott's point of view might have helped the story along, but for me, I really wanted the storytelling done in a more cohesive manner.

That aside?

I loved Scott and Evan's journey. Anna Martin's writing is polished and just the right balance of feels and circumstance. The characters are authentic, and the time between Scott and Evan as children to their teenage years, was especially well done. We follow Evan as he forms a deep friendship with Scott at eight, and their innocent first kiss that will leave you smiling. We see him fall in love with Scott at eighteen, and share a beautiful kiss that ends in heartache. We watch the heartbreak of having to distance himself from Scott at twenty, when he's not able to kiss Scott back. And we get the kiss of rediscovery when they eventually reconnect at twenty-eight. Each chapter a kiss from Scott, and the final chapter a kiss from Evan, all leading up to an epilogue filled with a thousand kisses of happily ever after.

Their story was a beautiful roller coaster of genuine emotion and longing.

And that ending? It's sweet, lingering, and absolute perfection. I wish all my books had such warm, gooey endings. (I hugged my Kindle. No lie.)

"Twenty-five years," Evan murmured. "It took us twenty-five years to get here."
"I can barely remember my life without you in it."
"Is this the part in the story where we get sappy?"
"And they all lived happily ever after?"
"Yeah. Forever and ever."

I understand why this won't work for some readers, but I'd recommend to try it all the same. It's an easy, low angst read, with a little something for everyone, and two men who completely captured my heart.

Check out for more info on Dreamspinner Press or Goodreads!

Did you see Anna Martin's visit today? Visit here for an excerpt and giveaway!

GIVEAWAY + Blog Tour: Five Times My Best Friend Kissed Me, And The One Time I Kissed Him First by Anna Martin

Anna Martin is in the clubhouse today with an Excerpt & Giveaway to promote The Kissing Book! Check out our tag-team review of Five Times My Best Friend Kissed Me here!!

Hello! Thank you for joining me at Boy Meets Boy so I can talk about my new book, ‘Five Times My Best Friend Kissed Me, and One Time I Kissed Him First’.

Today I’m going to give you an introduction to one of the story’s main characters, Scott Sparrow.

The story is told from the viewpoint of the other main character in the novel, Evan, who has been in love with Scott since he was a kid. For that reason Scott was really fun to write, mostly because Evan has this sort of skewed way of looking at his best friend. Scott and Evan are the original ‘opposites attract’ couple—Evan is quiet and artistic, Scott is loud and athletic. They became friends as young children, and the story follows how they grow through their teenage years, to the inevitable split when they go to different colleges, and how they reconcile as adults.

Unlike Evan, who’s an only child of a single mom, Scott has an older brother and younger sister, and parents who are still happily married. (To these cynical millennials, this seems like an achievement!) There’s definitely a big, warm family vibe in the Sparrow house, and again, writing that through Evan’s eyes with a touch of jealousy was really interesting to me.

I think my favourite thing about Scott is how much love he has to give. Evan is definitely the sensitive one out of the two boys, but Scott has a heart of gold and makes sure his friends and family know how much they’re loved. The novel also shows Scott growing up quite a lot; as a teenager he’s got a lot of grand dreams and ambitions, but as he gets older he settles and finds a more easy going life. I didn’t intentionally steal away all his dreams (!) but there’s definitely an element of him coming back down to earth in the later part of the novel. That’s a good thing, by the way—Scott comes to realise that his priorities are his family and Evan.

Here’s Evan’s introduction to Scott in the novel – I hope you enjoy it!



That voice was familiar, and Evan dropped his head back, knowing he couldn’t ignore it.

“Evan, you fuck!”

Evan laughed and let his head roll to the side. Grinning, Scott stood in his board shorts and a long-sleeved T-shirt, hands balled on his hips.


“We’re playing football.”

“Scott, it’s almost midnight. How the fuck do you plan on playing football?”

Scott pointed straight up at the moon. Which, admittedly, was giving off a lot of light in the clear night sky. Scott’s skin glowed, pearlescent in the moonlight. It reflected off his Irish pale skin and lit up his blue eyes like he was magical.

Evan pulled himself to his feet with a heaving sigh. He hadn’t been able to say no to Scott for a long time now.

One by one, the others abandoned the fire pit and wandered over to where Scott and Andy had drawn wobbly lines in the sand to designate a playing area. Someone had brought a foam football or found one in the trunk of the car, and Scott was tossing it back and forth with Andy as they galloped the length of the makeshift field.

“Evan,” Scott said as Evan stretched out the kinks in his neck. “My team?”

It was a question but not one, not really. Like there was any question that Evan King would play on the same team as Scott Sparrow. Evan nodded and kicked off his flip-flops, pushed his fingers through his hair, and cracked his knuckles. It looked like there was about ten of them playing, including a few of the girls. They split down the middle, their friends quickly choosing their allegiance to either Scott or Andy.

Scott hustled Evan together with the rest of their teammates: Katie, who played hockey and was strong and hella fast, Drew, and Tony. They would do well, Evan decided.

“Jamie is their weak spot,” Scott said as he casually threw his arm around Evan’s shoulder and pulled him into the huddle. “We already agreed no tackles, so don’t push it. Karen will fight dirty, so don’t engage her unless you have to.”

“Got it, Captain,” Katie said with a salute. Scott laughed and pushed her shoulder.

Everyone knew Scott and Katie hooked up. It wasn’t a big deal. They weren’t dating, and Katie made no claims on Scott—his time or his affection. Though there was affection there, in spades, both claimed they had no interest in a relationship.

Evan tried very hard not to be jealous.


When you realize you want to marry your best friend at age six, life should follow a pretty predictable path, right? Maybe not.

As a kid, Evan King thought Scott Sparrow was the most amazing person he’d ever met. At seventeen, his crush runs a little deeper, and nothing seems simple anymore. Scott is more interested in football and girls than playing superheroes, and Evan’s attention is focused on getting into art school. A late-night drunken kiss is something to be forgotten, not obsessed over for the next ten years.

When life suddenly brings them back together, it doesn’t take much for the flame Evan carried for Scott nearly all his life to come roaring back, and Evan discovers that life sometimes has a strange way of coming full circle.

Book buy links


Anna Martin Biography

Anna Martin is from a picturesque seaside village in the south- west of England and now lives in the slightly arty, slightly quirky city of Bristol. After spending most of her childhood making up stories, she studied English Literature at university before attempting to turn her hand as a professional writer.

Apart from being physically dependent on her laptop, Anna is enthusiastic about writing and producing local grassroots theater (especially at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where she can be found every summer), going to visit friends in other countries, baking weird and wonderful sweets, learning to play the ukulele, and Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk.

Anna claims her entire career is due to the love, support, pre-reading, and creative ass kicking provided by her best friend Jennifer. Jennifer refuses to accept responsibility for anything Anna has written.

Social Media links


Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Kissing Alex (Bodyguards Inc. #6) by R.J. Scott

Martial arts expert Lewis is the kind of bodyguard who slips under most people’s radar. Quiet, reserved, but constantly on alert, he’ll do his job, keep his charges safe, then relax by reading Shakespeare in his spare time.

When he’s given a case involving a spoiled celebrity singer, Lewis isn’t all that impressed. The job is nothing but babysitting a pretty boy, and he’s used to diplomatic postings with depth and challenge. What could he possibly have in common with the man he’s being forced to look after?

Alex became the envy of many when he and his fellow bandmates won second place in a huge TV talent show. He has more money than he knows what to do with, no life goals, an ex-boyfriend selling a sex tape and now, someone who wants him dead, or at the very least maimed.

Can Lewis keep Alex safe, even when things usually in his control go to hell? Is running to a remote Scottish island the only way for them to stay alive?

"Have you ever kissed someone, and it feels like home, and passion, and possibly all at once? The kind of kiss that has you pushing over the edge of something vital and important."

Kissing Alex is a fun standalone read (#6 from the Bodyguards Inc series) that did a fantastic balancing act between sweetness and a bit of bite. Sometimes I just want an undemanding escapist read to sweep me up into the romance and to go with the flow, but this also has dollop of witty exchanges, some shared and some private observations. There's some edginess too, a pretty perfect combination.

R J Scott delivers a story that paints glorious word pictures of the wild Scottish weather and the remote island on which the namesake of the book Alex and his bodyguard Lewis find themselves. The enforced isolation brings some soul searching for both men and time to re-evaluate.

The setting and the people are beautifully captured. This story has a simple charm told from both Alex and Lewis' perspectives, whilst each of them moves from begrudging sufferance (to contemplating whether the other might feel the spark between them), and weighing up if having a casual relationship or something more serious is viable.

The pace of the story was just about perfect which makes me forgive the occasional errors that jolted me out of my reading bliss. Some things in the UK are different, we don't have cream and sugar, frosting or cell phones (we have milk and sugar, icing and mobile phones or mobis) and I know it is a very small thing to grumble about, but it had me doing double takes each time it happened, which was quite a lot actually with the cream and sugar thing as those guys were drinking more than a few hot beverages whilst mulling over what they should be up to next.

It just so happens that Lewis is the Laird of the island of Stoirmeil and he takes his responsibility for that and his role as big brother seriously. It was lovely to see his change in personality between professional bodyguard to caring big brother. Lewis is also super duper smart, and my goodness isn't that sexy? Both Alex and I thought so. Lewis' siblings and friends were able to poke gentle fun at it and the impossibly difficult questions he set for the island's local quiz night. There's my other minor niggle, at the start of the story it said Lewis was so clever he escaped Stoirmeil at a young age to study at Cambridge university, then later in the book it said he lived and studied at Oxford. I know Oxbridge is a shorthand for the top universities in England, but it was stretching believability to imagine that he attend both red brick universities the rivalry between them is intense. Other than that I had no grumbles about the story in fact I was delighted.

Lewis assumes that because Alex is in a boy band from a talent show that he's probably got more beauty than brains, but actually Alex is a smart cookie too and has a love of reading. Guys that love to read, leave me weak at the knees; so I was truly rooting for these two to get together.

I loved the way stereotypes and assumptions were put to scrutiny and often found to be in error. This happened on quite a few occasions and I really enjoyed the insights. The secondary characters were well sketched and I was rooting for them too.

Having said all of that, it is a light read, like one of the amazing cakes that Lewis' younger brother Davy can rustle up. It left me wanting another slice or several, so I'll be sure to check out the other books in the Bodyguard Inc series that I have somehow missed until now.

Highly recommended, the characters are interesting and the island of is a treat.

Check out on Goodreads!